Summer 2003, p.17

News from the Metro NYC Region

New Jersey
NJ Builds New Transit While NYC Flounders

Unlike New York City, where there is a logjam of competing mega-projects and nothing new is ever built, New Jersey has spent the last decade actually completing new transit projects.

Since 1991, New Jersey Transit has successfully built commuter rail connections for two new "Midtown-direct" services and tied its entire north Jersey rail network together at the new Secaucus Transfer station. It has also built two new light rail lines (Trenton-Camden will open this summer) and has a Federal Transit Administration full-funding agreement for a third (Newark-Elizabeth).

Looking forward, New Jersey politicians are backing one major project for federal funding: Senators Lautenberg and Corzine and Governor Jim McGreevey all agree that winning funds for a second New Jersey-Midtown commuter rail tunnel is the state's top priority in the latest version of the federal Transportation Equity Act. Editorials in the Star-Ledger, Asbury Park Press, Trenton Times and Courier-News have supported the project and the state's leaders.

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New York State
Syracuse Won't Get World's Biggest Mall

The pyramid management group announced in July that it will not build DestiNY, a $2.2 billion mall outside of Syracuse, New York because of problems with the city. Instead, the angry builder plans on building the mega-mall elsewhere in New York or the Northeast. Environmentalists and civic groups have often blasted Pyramid as a master of winning questionable zoning changes and using tax abatements to build sprawl-fueling malls and mega-stores in the midst of rural areas, destroying mom and pop stores and devastating main streets. Despite the setback, Governor Pataki, State Senate Majority Leader Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are still falling over themselves to give Pyramid $600 million in tax abatements to build the mall elsewhere in upstate New York.

New York City
Mega-Project Logjam

Back in New York City, a phenomenal $60 billion worth of transit and rail mega-projects are competing for limited federal, state and MTA funding. The mayor's favorite project is extending the 7 Train west from Times Square to service a future Olympic/New York Jets Stadium. However, this project has no other patrons and must get in line behind the East Side LIRR connector to Grand Central Station, the Second Avenue subway, an improved Nassau/Fulton subway center, a rebuilt South Ferry 1 train and the cross harbor rail freight tunnel. In July, the Daily News reported that the planned $645 million extension of the N train to LaGuardia Airport championed by former-Mayor Giuliani would probably be removed from the wish list. Around the same time, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation added a new mega-project to the list when it launched a $5 million study of Long Island Railroad access to lower Manhattan. Promoted as a way to connect lower Manhattan to JFK airport, the project largely consists of building a new tunnel under the East River from the LIRR Flatbush Avenue terminal to the transit hub being planned downtown.

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Attention MTA Bridges: High Speed E-ZPass Works

The MTA requires motorists using E-Zpass to slow to 5 mph and wait for a gate to rise before proceeding. This speed requirement is unnecessarily slow and delays traffic at MTA crossings; E-ZPass can actually work at speeds of up to 50 mph. Not surprisingly, other local toll agencies want to take advantage of the full technology. In June, the Port Authority equipped the toll lanes at the Outerbridge Crossing with 25 mph E-ZPass lanes in a pilot program to test non-stop tolling on all three Staten Island-New Jersey crossings (Outerbridge, Bayonne and Goethals). Up river on the Tappan Zee Bridge, the New York State Thruway Authority is building two 20 mph non-stop toll lanes. The new lanes will process up to 1,800 cars per hour, up from its current capacity of only 800.

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Fat American Kids Get Driven to Work

According to the centers for disease control, one-third of American children are obese or overweight. A recent study by Belden, Russonello and Stewart found that more than 70% of parents used to bicycle or walk to school, while only 18% of children do today.

According to Surface Transportation Policy Project, in Washington, the estimated annual cost of physical inactivity and obesity in the United States is approximately $117 billion.